The city of Pallas Athena is in the midst of a great rebirth, as if Zeus himself had decreed it. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have bet my last euro against Athens meeting the Olympic challenge, and I would have lost. Big time. The place is bustling and busy, sunny as hell but easy on the humidity, and the girls – yes, young Greek women – are suddenly among the most attractive in Europe. I kid you not. Greek girls were always among the sexiest in the world – there was no such thing as a Greek female who was lousy in bed – but they were also quite ugly, short, fat and terribly hairy. Believe it or not, and here Zeus must have pulled quite a trick, they have been transformed overnight, and are now tall, chic, slim, with lovely legs and – hopefully – still great in the sack. (What an irony it would be if the newly beautiful lost their special quality. That's what I would call a real Greek tragedy.)
Be that as it may, how can one dislike a city where a demonstration takes place daily. The first one I encountered on my way in from the airport were the prostitutes, gathered outside the Interior Ministry screaming abuse against the proposed reforms. Brothels are legal in Athens, and they serve mainly those foreigners who cannot get a piece of arse if their lives depended on it. Greek brothels cannot operate near schools, churches, hospitals, sports centres, playgrounds or parliament, which leaves little room for prostitutes to make an honest living. When I proposed in a column that brothels should relocate inside the vast parliament building – joining the 300 whores already operating there – a Greek politician by the name of Venizelos (no relation to the great man) threatened to sue me personally. (He has not and I have repeated the charge.) One and a half thousand licensed prostitutes working in 220 Athenian brothels pay taxes as well as 280 euros a month for social security. The government is threatening a crackdown after Nordic ministers protested at Greek plans to license more brothels. (Nordic types eat all that crappy fish and can't stand heterosexual sex.) Kidding aside, brothels are a good thing because they keep the girls away from the pimps. It's also better and safer to work from a house, and a happy hooker is a good hooker, or so Mimi (big tits) Papandreou tells me.
And it gets better. No sooner had the girls stopped demonstrating when the cops started their own. The fuzz insists it should work fewer hours and have earlier retirement because its place of work is polluted. I agree. I love Greek cops because they not only have a great sense of humour (when they caught a Moroccan with his pants down trying to bugger a pelican, they administered street justice and a stern lecture rather than wasting the public's and the court's time and money; they were also very kind to the pelican who had obviously dodged a bullet) they are also polite and very badly paid. I cheered and chanted with the whores against the prostitutes of parliament, and with the cops. It actually made my day.
As I was on a brief visit, I stayed at the Grande Bretagne, the most historic hotel in Athens. In fact, the hotel's history is that of the city's. When it was built, in 1874, Athens had a population of 67,000. (It is now five million.) The GB, as everyone calls it, has often been the hub of the nation's political fortunes, and in 1944, when the communist guerrillas had overrun the city, the GB and a few blocks around were the only patch of free Greek territory. Many cops and British Tommies gave their lives defending the place. It has now been totally refurbished and is under new management. The staff are among the best I've ever encountered, courteous, charming and – yes, once again – good-looking.
I went to the most glamorous outdoor nightclub inside the royal gardens, across from the royal palace, dined outdoors in the Zappeion, all within three minutes' walking distance from the GB. I met a beautiful girl, Ioanna from Thessaloniki, who spoke to me in the plural, alas, while the DJ was blasting Latin rhythms of the Fifties. (I'm not sure what made me fall in love, the girl or the music.) And throughout my stay I did not meet a single person who was anti the Greek royal family. It seems those against are members of the Fourth Estate and the whores inside the old palace. Zito Hellas!